'Anancy Chaptaz' mounted to rebuild culture
Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter
How many of us actually remember anything about the popular Jamaican folk figure, Bredda Anancy?
Damion Radcliffe and the Independent Actors Movement will be giving Jamaicans a reminder at the staging of a production called Anancy Chaptaz.
Radcliffe, who wrote and directed the play, said he decided to do it because he believes that aspect of our culture is being forgotten.
"I was determined to write it because I felt that Anancy was being forgotten and being pushed aside for other culture's stories, the likes of Harry Potter and the various vampire stories. I thought that it was about time Anancy had a rebirth. It was time people, and especially the young, recognised how 'hip' or cool Anancy was," he told The Sunday Gleaner, noting that after years of thinking about it, he finished writing the production in January.
"I felt that if the young generation was introduced to Anancy they too would love him, like the many generations before, and come to understand the lessons taught by him. I wanted to create a children and family show that was different and culturally relevant to Jamaica."
He said the first of many 'Chaptaz', called 'di beginnin', will reveal to the audience how the stories became known as Anancy stories.
"Not to give away too much of the story but we see see Anancy and Tiger battling for love, power, treachery and the fight for tradition. The 'chapta' will take the audience through many twists and turns in the magnificent 'Storyland' (the place where Anancy and other characters live)," he said.
The story will be brought to life by adults and children, some of whom will be making their theatrical debut.
The adults in the bunch are Sabrena McDonald, who plays 'Tella' - the ever-present ancestral spirit, Natasha Griffiths (Sistah Snake) and Ladon Burke, who plays 'Tiger'. Among the children cast members are Kellie Bertram who plays 'Anancy', Kiersten Kerr as Princess Ayo, Jenine Shepherd as Trumpet (royal family right hand), with Charise Simpson as her understudy. There will also be actors from St Francis Primary, St Richards Primary and Campion College. Paula Shaw does the choreography, while musical arrangement is done by Winston 'Bello' Bell.
Radcliffe is also very confident that his mixed cast will be able to bring the story across.
"As director, I don't think that I could be more pleased with the cast that I am currently working with. They are talented, engaging, enthused and plain old silly and all those ingredients make Anancy Chaptaz spicy, tasteful and entertaining. They have embraced the story and made it theirs and that is the key to lifting the story from the page," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
He said they will incorporate acting, singing, dancing and the telling of stories in what he says will be a very interactive production.
"The audience will be engaged throughout the production, as they will sing along and talk with the characters in the play. It is a very energetic story that unfolds as the characters flip through the pages of Anancy Chaptaz in front of you," Radcliffe said.
While children are the target audience for the production and he hopes they fall in love with 'Anancy', Radcliffe said he hopes adults will be able to relate as well.
Radcliffe said he does not have many expectations but he hopes Anancy Chaptaz will be loved and embraced by its audience.
"We hope that there will be a demand for it to be restaged. We hope that persons will be singing and dancing in the seats, and leave singing one of the original songs. We hope that companies would see the cultural value and want to be a part of it in terms of sponsorship. We hope for a successful, be it artistic, staging," he told The Sunday Gleaner, noting that proceeds will go towards the development of the Independent Actors Movement Outreach and Edu-Performance programmes.
The young director added that he will be staging the series as often as the audience demands and the financial support exists. Regardless, he said a 'chapta' will be staged in December and again next year.
Anancy Chaptaz will be staged for the first time on Friday at 6 p.m. at the Dennis Scott Theatre, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, while there will be two shows on Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m, respectively. There will also be a final benefit performance the following Tuesday.